Work, From the Beginning: Genesis 1, Part 2

By David Williamson, part two of a series.

As Genesis 1 proceeds, God continues to form the earth-substance out of nothing, and we see new and expanding products and possibilities. God takes on additional work – new, specific forms of work. God continue to create – indeed, to innovate – and various forms of material, such as vegetation, come into being, alive with new essence and new utility.      

God’s creating and ordering continues, and delightfully expands to include the waters and skies. God continues to speak, to create, to get things started. He eventually creates, invites, and actually commands the creature who is made imago Dei, in God’s own image, to join with God in the managing, ordering and utilization of all that God created.

First, though, God lets the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and the birds fly across the dome of the sky. He created everything from the giant condor to the tsetse fly, from a microscopic jelly fish to the leviathan. There is obvious delight in the nearly endless variety that emerges from the great sea and the great dome, which comes from God’s word – or “idea.” It appears that God takes great delight in the interesting amazing variety of the animal world.

Several years ago, theologian Robert Banks wrote a interesting and energizing book, God he Worker: Journeys into the Mind, Heart and Imagination of God. Noticing what God creates in the early chapters of Genesis and the tools or skills needed to create, care for and manage that creation, then noticing other places where God has particular work to do, Banks identifies 16 different work tasks that God demonstrates, to get the work of creation “up and running.” Banks lists God as: gardener and orchardist, farmer and winemaker, shepherd and pastoralist, composer, performer, metalworker, potter, garment maker, dresser, tentmaker, camper, architect and builder. A wide range of tasks and specific skills were needed to make “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” fulfilling the world’s created intent. I believe that it is only a short stretch or adjustment to suggest that any and all tasks that take the natural world and work it beneficially are anticipated in the early chapters of Genesis. God starts the formation near the end or climax of this process, and invites the human creature to work with him in managing and maintaining what God has created. Indeed, God continues the work of creation and management by bringing us alongside to till, water, cultivate and harvest

God is an innovator, both in product and process. When we innovate, we mimic the creativity of God, who is innovative. Every imaginable work or enterprise, and every new way of working, reflects the innovative God.

Notice that Adam, man or humankind, is made from the very earth he is to cultivate and care for. The earth (humus) becomes the material God uses for the creation of Adam (the human). Human from humus – from earth to earth we are formed, and it is to earth we shall return, dust to dust. The creature is created in the likeness of God, and given responsibility and authority (a secondary or derivative authority). We are made from the very beginning to work. All human work that is consistent with God’s purposes is dignified.

God gives the natural environment to humans in order to form and develop it in ways appropriate to God’s idea or plan. We who are made at the end of the process are made “a little lower than the heavenly beings,” (Psalm 8), are made to be ruler over the works of God’s hands, the crown of all of God’s creation, a co-worker, partner. What an honor, completely unearned and undeserved, but thrilling, high, holy, amazing. We are given to work the land on behalf of God’s intention and purpose and then given dominion, stewardship, over the rest of creation, consistent with God’s intention. The earthling joins with the creator to develop, manage, utilize and care for the earth from which we came.

God in gracious generosity, shares his work, authority, resource and capabilities. Our creation is a high and holy calling, each aspect of our everyday lives. It is a divine partnership of colossal comprehensive proportions.

God takes great delight in all of creation, perhaps especially in the one made in God’s image. After seeing what he had accomplished in the sixth day of his creation work, God declares, “This is very good!” After inspecting, assessing, seeing it in operation, God’s approval is declared. God responds like a master craftsman who has brought a piece of work to a gratifying and pleasing close: “Very good!”

Then the eternal creator, the source, the one who causes to be (YHWH) steps back from his work and rests. God takes a Sabbath – to behold, to reflect, to celebrate, to cherish. The working God is also the resting God, the appreciating God.

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